While the cutting logs the old-fashioned way with an axe and a chopping block might have its allure, many people now prefer to turn to a powered log splitter to finish the job much faster and with much less effort.
When you think of log splitters, you might automatically think of a hydraulic machine – but another option is a kinetic log splitter. These machines offer several advantages over hydraulic splitters – and they can allow you to work much faster.
If you are interested in one of these machines but don’t know where to start, here are our top picks for best kinetic log splitter.
Quick Glance: The Best Kinetic Log Splitter
Let’s take a few moments to remind ourselves of what kinetic log splitters are – as well as their relative advantages and disadvantages. Then we can go on to think about some of the most important things to look for when choosing one.
What are kinetic log splitters?
The most common type of splitter is the hydraulic log splitter. These are usually powered by a gas engine or electric motor and work by using oil pressure in a hydraulic cylinder to force a ram through a log in order to split it.
Kinetic splitters are based on a completely different principle – they function by using the stored kinetic energy in a flywheel to power the ram.
When you pull the handle, the rack comes down onto the pinion gear and the ram is forced out at a much greater speed than with a hydraulic splitter, cleaving any log in its path in two.
What are the advantages?
Kinetic splitters have a couple of distinct advantages over traditional hydraulic versions. Here are the most important:
Increased cycle speed
Since the ram travels at a much higher speed than with a hydraulic splitter, the cycle is much faster.
With the fastest hydraulic splitters, the ram can split the log and return to its original in eight or nine seconds, but a cycle speed of anything between 10 and 15 seconds is considered fast.
However, with a kinetic splitter, a speed of only three seconds is normal – and some are even faster. This allows you to greatly increase your work rhythm, meaning you can deal with far more logs in a shorter space of time.
It is difficult to compare the power of a kinetic splitter with a hydraulic splitter since the action is not the same.
The power of hydraulic splitters is measured in tons, and this refers to the amount of pressure the ram brings to bear on the log. For example, a splitter that is rated at 10 tons exerts a pressure of 10 tons on a log to split it.
However, since the ram of a kinetic splitter is moving faster, it penetrates the log more easily. For this reason, kinetic splitters are said to have the equivalent ability of a hydraulic splitter of a specified number of tons without actually generating the same amount of force.
For example, a kinetic splitter rated at 10 tons has at least the same splitting ability as a hydraulic splitter that exerts a force of 10 tons – although the force it uses to achieve this will be somewhat less.
In general, since the speed of the ram is greater, a kinetic splitter can usually provide the equivalent splitting capability as a larger hydraulic machine but in a smaller package.
Powered by electricity
Since kinetic splitters can produce the same splitting power in a smaller machine, more of them tend to be electric – although the biggest units can be gas-powered too.
The advantages of using electricity to power the machines are that they are less noisy, less polluting, easier to maintain – and, because they don’t give off poisonous emissions, can be used indoors or in confined spaces.
How to choose
If you have decided to opt for a kinetic log splitter, most of the considerations are similar to buying a regular hydraulic model. Here are the main points to consider.
As we have just mentioned, power is not measured in the same way with hydraulic splitters – but it is still one of the most important considerations.
When looking at a kinetic splitter, you will be told the equivalent power it can produce in tons – this means it can split logs at least as well as a hydraulic splitter of that rating.
With power, try to avoid the temptation to simply buy the most powerful model you can find. More power will cost you extra, but you may find never need it. A 10-ton splitter is sufficient for most home use, for example.
2. Log capacity
Log capacity refers to the maximum size of log a splitter can deal with. This is important, so make sure a kinetic log splitter you are interested in is able to split logs of the size that you require.
3. Cycle time
The faster cycle time is one of the main advantages kinetic splitters have over hydraulic versions. Cycle times of three seconds are normal, but some can be as low as two seconds or even less.
If you want to work fast, pay attention to how quickly a machine will allow you to go – although most people won’t ever be able to work at this pace for any length of time.
Many kinetic log splitters are smaller than their hydraulic counterparts, making them more mobile and easier to transport.
If you are looking at larger models, make sure they are easy to tow so that you can transport them from one place to another.
Smaller models can even be compact enough to fit into the trunk of a car. If you are looking at models at this end of the scale, make sure you will be able to transport it easily if necessary.
If you are buying a gas model, take notice of the engine size (in ccs) as this will tell you how hard it can work – as well as how much gas it will use. Also, take notice of its power (in Hp) – although the more important rating is the ton equivalent.
Importantly, look at who makes the engine. Brands like Briggs & Stratton are among the most reliable.
You want these machines to last, so you should ensure they are made of tough and rugged materials. The wedge should be made of hardened steel or something similar, and the frame should also be constructed of high-quality materials.
7. One- or two-handed operation?
This is more a matter of personal preference. Some say that machines that offer one-handed operation are easier to use, but those that require two-handed operation are safer.
If you prefer ease of use, go for a one-handed model. If you place a higher value on safety, a two-handed model might be a better pick.
The Best Kinetic Log Splitter on the Market 2021
1. Generac K10, 10-Ton Kinetic Electric Log Splitter (Our Top Recommended)
For speedy log splitting in a home setting, this machine by Generac is hard to beat. It features a 25lb flywheel that allows it to generate 10 tons of splitting force, plenty for cutting through most of the kinds of logs regular home users will need it for.
In terms of size, it can handle anything up to 16” in length by 12” in diameter – again, plenty for most general use splitting logs for the fire.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of this machine is the super-fast one-second cycle. This means it can split a log and be back in position ready for the next one all in just one second – no hydraulic splitters can come anywhere close.
We also like that this is a compact unit that runs off an electric motor. This means it is easy to take anywhere – and you can also use it indoors since it doesn’t give off any harmful emissions like gas-powered alternatives.
As we have said, this is an ideal machine for most general home use. However, if you are looking for something with more power that can be used on larger logs, you should look elsewhere – that’s not what this machine is designed for.
Another slight issue we have is with the wheels. While it is light enough to be wheeled anywhere, if you have to wheel it over rough or uneven ground, you will have more trouble since the wheels are too small.
All in all, an excellent pick for general home log splitting – but perhaps not so recommended for those who need to cut bigger logs in larger quantities.
What We Like
- Super-fast splitting cycle – takes only 1 second to split wood and return
- Compact size – easy to transport and easy to store
- Electric motor – quieter and emission-free so can be used indoors
- 10-ton splitting force – delivers plenty of power for a small unit
- Maximum log capacity 16” x 12” – plenty of capacity for regular home use
What We Don’t Like
- Lacks power and capacity for larger jobs – not a commercial-grade unit
- Wheels too small for uneven surfaces – only rolls smoothly on flat ground
2. Performance Built T20 Kinetic Log Splitter
This kinetic log splitter from Performance Built is powered by a high-quality 127cc Briggs & Stratton engine and can deliver a nominal splitting force of 20 tons. It is rated as being able to split logs of anything up to 20.3” in length.
If you are used to hydraulic splitters, one of the most impressive features of this machine will be its very short cycle time – at only three seconds per cycle, no hydraulic splitters can come close. This allows it to work up to four times faster than comparable hydraulic splitters.
It also incorporates a patented onboard clutch system that is designed for constant rack engagement. This allows for maximum power at a safe speed and also greatly reduces the risk of kickback when the rack is disengaged. It also features two-handed operation for extra safety.
It is a high-quality machine that is built to last – for example, the 6.3” wedge is constructed of hardened steel. This splitter is also made to be easy to tow. It includes both push-type and pull-type towing kits.
However, on the downside, the maximum towing speed is only 10mph, meaning if you want to transport it over larger distances, it could end be quite time-consuming.
It is also not cheap – although for a top-end machine, you should expect to pay a premium price, and we believe it still represents good value for money.
Overall, a high-quality and powerful splitter for someone who appreciates the advantages kinetic machines have over hydraulic ones. A recommended choice.
What We Like
- 3-second cycle time – far faster than hydraulic log splitters
- 2-handed operation – designed to put safety first
- Easy to transport – tow kits for pushing and pulling included
- Log catching tray – reduces strain from stooping and lifting
- 20-ton ram force – can deal with most logs it will ever meet
What We Don’t Like
- 10mph max towing speed – needs to be transported slowly
- Expensive unit – although a high-quality product
3. Powerhouse Log Splitters XM-880 Kinetic Logsplitter
This kinetic splitter from Powerhouse is another electric unit, this time powered by a 2Hp motor, and is rated as being able to split more effectively than a 12-ton hydraulic splitter.
One neat feature is the telescoping wedge. This allows you to choose between three settings – 19”, 21.6” or 24” depending on the size of log – to improve splitting speed and work efficiency.
This is an upgraded version of a previous model, and one of the improvements is the use of tougher materials than before. The rack and pinion are now made of titanium, chromium and magnesium alloy to increase durability and lifespan. It also boasts a powder-coated steel frame.
We like that this machine is very compact, making it convenient to use, store and transport. Since it has an electric motor, it can be used indoors, and the small size means it can even fit in a car trunk if you need to move it.
However, having said that, it is not a light unit, meaning you might struggle to lift it – and will need to use it on the ground or on a very solid work surface.
Despite the use of some high-quality materials, we also find that the overall build quality is slightly lacking – although it is reasonable for a machine at this price point and is still quite capable of doing its job.
This would be a great pick for someone who wants a kinetic splitter for small-scale home use – however, it is not ideal if you need a splitter for more intense, more extreme operations.
What We Like
- Telescoping wedge – can be set to 19”, 21.6” or 24” to split different sized logs
- Tough materials – rack and pinion made of titanium, chromium and magnesium alloy
- Convenient compact size – even fits in the trunk of a car
- Easy to set up – can be ready to go out of the box in only a few minutes
- Powerful splitting force – rated as better than a 12-ton hydraulic splitter
What We Don’t Like
- Heavy – although small, can be difficult to lift or use on a raised surface
- Slightly inferior build quality – tough materials but not top-end construction
4. PowerKing 34 Ton Kinetic Log Splitter
For those who require more significant power from their kinetic log splitter than smaller models can offer, a heavy-duty gas-powered option might be worth considering.
This unit from PowerKing can deliver a log splitting force at least equivalent to that of a 34-ton hydraulic machine. It features a tough 8” wedge and will make short work of even the hardest logs you may need to split.
It also boasts a fast 3-second cycle that will allow you to power through the job, and this machine is able to accept logs of up to 28” in diameter. This can give you the ability to chop up larger logs than is possible with smaller machines.
We like that out of the box, only minimal assembly is required. You simply need to attach the wheels and the tray and you’re ready to go.
It is also designed to be easy to tow, and with its large all-terrain tires, it can easily be towed over rough and uneven ground.
The only downsides to this machine are simply due to the fact that it is such a large, powerful unit. It runs on gas, making it noisy and polluting – this also means it can’t be used indoors. It is also a heavy machine, making it more difficult to maneuver by hand.
We like this splitter a lot and have no hesitation recommending it to anyone who needs a powerful unit. However, for those looking for something more manageable and more convenient, a smaller electric kinetic splitter might be a better option.
What We Like
- Big splitting power – rated as equivalent to a 34-ton hydraulic splitter
- Easy to tow – includes large all-terrain tires to take it anywhere
- Minimal assembly required – arrives largely pre-assembled
- 24” maximum log capacity – larger capacity than many kinetic log splitters
- 3-second cycle speed – allows you to work as quickly as you like
What We Don’t Like
- Gas powered – creates noise and emissions and can’t be used indoors
- Large and bulky – lacks convenience and mobility of smaller units
5. Sportsman Earth Series 19 Ton Gas Powered Kinetic Log Splitter
This gas-powered kinetic splitter from the Sportsman Earth series incorporates a 212cc 7Hp air-cooled four-stroke engine and delivers a splitting force equivalent to a 19-ton hydraulic machine.
It can split logs of up to 21” in length by 13.75” in diameter and weighing up to 100lbs, giving you the capacity to deal with even the larger logs that you may need to chop. It also features a handy drop tray to catch the logs, reducing the strain on your back through constant bending.
It boasts a 7” steel wedge and a splitting cycle of only two seconds – far faster than any hydraulic log splitters can manage. It also features two-handed operation designed to keep the operator as safe as possible.
One of the main disadvantages is the noise this machine generates – at 108dB, this is a machine that will not go down well with neighbors. It is also not suitable for use near livestock.
Another problem is that this unit is not towable. This means you need to choose where you are going to use it and install it there. Once installed, moving it to a new location is more problematic than with other splitters.
This machine has a lot going for it. If you want a powerful and reliable splitter and won’t need to change its location too often, this is a highly recommended pick. On the other hand, if you need something with greater mobility, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
What We Like
- Fast splitting cycle – only 2 seconds to complete one cycle
- Large log capacity – can deal with logs up to 21” x 13.75” and weighing up to 100lbs
- Drop tray to catch logs – no bending to pick up split logs from the floor
- Large splitting force – equivalent of a 19-ton hydraulic splitter
- Two-handed operation – increases safety for the operator
What We Don’t Like
- Loud machine – rated at 108dB
- Not towable – makes it more difficult to move once installed
Several worthy options
Choosing a log splitter can be complicated, and you may decide you prefer a regular hydraulic machine after all. However, if you think you might like to give a kinetic log splitter a go and you are looking for the best options, our top pick, the Performance Built splitter – or any of the other models we’ve looked at – would be a great place to start.